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Ask HN: What literature do you read?
42 points by null_ptr on Sept 14, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 88 comments
I know a lot of people here are futurists and Phillip K. Dick fans, so I look forward to hearing what other literature you enjoy.



Herman Hesse "The Glass Bead Game" is incredible. For great mind fucks, check out the crime fiction of Jim Thompson: 1st person, you're a petty crook, dumb & scared, people trying to kill you are right behind you, and most the books end with you being caught and killed in the last sentence. It takes a day or two to shake off his books' reality.


Thanks for the spoilers. I'll pass, now.


As someone who's read some of Jim Thompson's books (notably The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280), that's not really a spoiler, the books are quite different from that.


You saved me. Thanks.


After reading Game of Thrones I wanted to read more book series, so went with science fiction ones:

  Started with: Dune, by Frank Herbert (+ 5 books in the series)
  Continued to: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (+ 3 sequels)
  Now reading: Foundation by Isaac Asimov (+ 5 books)
All those are pretty great in sense of that they take set in span of thousands of years, and touch bit different ideas around society, myths, religion, morals, physical and mental technologies.

Other than that, been been enjoying some classic literature, Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, James Clavell, Haruki Murakami and books about Richard Feynman.


Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series is rather epic, as well.


but far too long, he should have tied it up after the first five books or so.


agreed. Sadly GOT seems to be going down the same path


I've been chewing through some Neil Stephenson books lately. I think a lot of his earlier work was somewhat prescient (in terms of general themes) and some of his newer work bring up some interesting societal points especially about the role of government with regards to technology. Another theme that I feel is particularly relevant lately is the bifurcation of the technically skilled (or even aware) and the technically unskilled. He puts up an interesting split in Anathema which wittingly or not might well represent a lot of the current hacker/tech-elite discussion in society at large. Anathema is well worth a read and Cryptonomicon is just plain fun (perhaps more relevant lately than it was in its own time).


Pedantic, perhaps, but the author's name is Neal Stephenson, and the book is Anathem (its a blending of "anathema" and "anthem")


Haha, Sorry, wish I could edit that now. No more posting to HN after more than three beers :) . Anathema was just a typo but I changed N[ie|ea]l back and forth a few times.

My stupidity aside, awesome author and Anathem is definitely worth a read.


Anathem (especially the last third of it) is an awesome reading. It's slow-building and the first two thirds took some will to get through, but it was really worth the struggle. Incredibly high-concept (for me at least).


Couldn't agree more about Cryptonomicon.


The trilogy of Neuromancer, Burning Chrome, and Mona Lisa Overdrive is still my favorite work of fiction, and also, to my mind, exemplifies the kind of taut, awesome writing that I would want to do if I wrote novels. It the only series of 3 books I have read more than once.

I caught these books at just the right time in my life (age 13 or 14), leading my high-school fascination with Japan and rekindled interest in computing, and probably played an inordinately large role in me ending up as a programmer who lives in Tokyo, two decades later.

I like great sci fi best, but I think most of it is crap, including virtually all of the old pulp sci fi and Asimov I grew up reading (which was basically all of it), Star Wars/Trek, etc.

Other than Gibson's stuff, some of the truly spectacular sci fi I have read is the very-dense-and-not-at-all-thriller-ish Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars), and the fast-paced-and-awesome Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. That led me to read all of Wilson's books, many of which are also good. Also Haldeman is an author worth reading, though not all of his books hit their mark.

Great sci fi is my favorite fiction, but IMO most of it is broken by being fundamentally implausible. Other fiction I consider great in other genres include Memoirs of a Geisha, Cold Mountain, REAMDE, The Son, The Road, the lighter but still version of that post-apocalyptic concept The Dog Stars, City of Thieves, and All the Pretty Horses and its sequels.

It's probably symptomatic of a major flaw in my character that despite also buying dozens of nonfiction works (Lincoln, On China, and so forth) over the past few years, I haven't finished any of them.


Oops, I meant Count Zero, not Burning Chrome. The latter isn't part of the Sprawl trilogy, but rather a collection of short stories (some good, some not so good).


As has already been mentioned elsewhere in this thread, most of Neil Stephenson's work is just great. Cryptonomicon is my favorite, but The Baroque Cycle (three books) is very good as well.

If you're into crime/mystery fiction, the recently deceased Elmore Leonard was one of the best. A few of his books have been made into movies (Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, The Big Bounce) with mixed results, but I do I highly recommend reading the books, which are numerous.

For a different sort of fiction, James Clavell's Shogun, Taipan, and Noble House are great. In fact, Noble House very well be my favorite book. It's a long (~1400 page) book about business dealings, political intrigue, and more. All set in the context of 1963 Hong Kong.

Those who like a touch of historical fiction could take a look at Conn Uggulden. One of his series, The Conqueror, which is about the rise and fall of the Mongol empire is pretty interesting. The books are a light read, and not particularly complicated, but it's entertaining and has some neat historical bits.


I think "King Rat" might also be part of James Clavell's series.

Even if it isn't, you should like it if you like the others


Yeah the Asian Saga includes King Rat, Shogun, Noble House, Taipan as well as Gai-gin, The Whirlwind. They're all pretty good books but I believe Taipan, Noble House and Shogun are considered Clavell's best work, in that order (personally I like Noble House best).

Thanks for the recommendation though.


Does Goodreads allow "groups"? That could be handy.

Edit: yes they do, and that's exactly what they're called, and there's already one for Hacker News: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/94469-hackernews


I'm in that group as well, but it's more or less dead - a problem is that Goodreads doesn't really define what groups are about, and users don't really see in their "timeline" when something new happens in a group.

Maybe the mods of that group could have a monthly book club or so?


Kafka. Catch 22. Orwell. Hemingway. Plato. But mostly pathology these days.


I liked Rainbows Edge because in addition to a nifty story, it felt like a blueprint or use case for the near future. Marshall Brane's Manna did something similar, even if you don't consider it fine literature. Charles Bukowski for poetry, which for some reason I can relate to, despite not sharing any experiences with the author ... which kind of worries me.

Various practical books such as Secrets of Power Negotiation by Roger Dawson if that sort of thing will help you.


Rainbow's Edge read to me like an up to date, go-with-the-times version of Neuromancer. I'd should probably revisit it.


I am currently reading a book called "The Housekeeper and the Professor" of Yoko Ogawa.

I haven't finished it, but I find it quite interesting. It's the story of a housekeeper and a professor of mathematics who can remember new memories only for 80 minutes.

Here is a link to the relevant wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Housekeeper_and_the_Profess...


Nothing 'exotic' really, my all time favourites are Asimov, Heinlein, Philip K.Dick, Stephen King (particularly dark tower series), Arthur C. Clarke, Orson Scott Card (Ender series), William Gibson, Douglas Adams.

I was recently coaxed into reading the 'Kingkiller chronicles' by Patrick Rothfuss, I was sceptical thinking it would be something like Harry Potter (not my cup of tea) but I ended up really liking it, looking forward to the third book.


Everything from Vernor Vinge is top notch. Start with A Fire Upon the Deep. If you like it read the other two books of the trilogy. It's a space opera by degree of events but it never gets cheesy. The amount of ideas put into these books never cease to amaze me.

Rudy Rucker's Postsingular followed by Hylozoic are great books. It's a rather humorous view on postsingular way of life. It's hard to describe his books and Rucker's writing style is not everyone's cup of tea but William Gibson likes it.

Also if you haven't read anything from Michael Swanwick you should give his books a try. It's not strictly science fiction because he likes to slide into more psychedelic and surreal areas of fiction. But I consider that his charm. Start with The Iron Dragon's Daughter.

I also have to mention Cory Doctorow's Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom. I actually don't really like Doctorow's works. Some of them are boring. But this particular book is an exception and absolutely worth reading. A lot of interesting ideas are in play there including reputation based currency, eternal life (through ability to backup/restore body and memories) and extreme transhumanism.


A lot of stuff:

Asimov's Foundation (I only recommend the trilogy, though; Foundation's Edge is good but will make you want to read Foundation and Earth, which does severe damage to the universe. Haven't read the prequels.)

Asimov's short stories

Tolkien

Ben Hur

The Count of Monte Cristo (brilliant revenge story)

A lot of Brandon Sanderson's work (The Stormlight Archive is promising to be fascinating)

Too long a list of other stuff to put here.


While I often read Science Fiction and recently enjoyed Corey Doctorow's Rapture of the Nerds, Last week I finished Jeet Thayil's Narcopolis.

Currently, I am reading the third volume of Rick Atkinson's history of the second world war, The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945. I've enjoyed all three volumes over the past decade.


I love biographies/auto-biographies of people not in technology (directly) who live an interesting life.

"Giant Steps: The Remarkable Story of the Goliath Expedition From Punta Arenas to Russia" by Karl Bushby

Unbelievable what it feels like to just take off...

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0751536954

"Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination"

The first third of the book is remarkable in that Walt Disney constantly struggles with failure.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0679757473

"Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer" by Lynne Cox

Her story is all about single focus on doing what you want to do.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0013L8AQQ

"Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life" by Steve Martin

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1416553657


I know from past threads on this topic that I am not the only person here who has found Robert Pirsig's work worthwhile. I mention it because it is currently on my nightstand, for the first repeat visit in too many years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_M._Pirsig


Well I'm definitely into sci-fi literature. There's simply nothing else nowadays (being in my early thirties) which can caught my attention and limited free time.

It's hard to sum it up to a couple of favorites... If you prefer hardcore sci-fi over the rest - as I do, those are definitely first choices: - Iain M. Banks Culture books ("Excession" being the best of all to me) - Simmon's "Hyperion" and "Fall of Hyperion"

Some authors managed to bring some good pieces of space-opera without being too much cheesy: - Hamilton and his Void books, - and, of course, Herbert and the Dune stuff. But I must warn the casual reader here: those kind of books can get really massive.

Second choices - but still really good books, would be stuff written by great guys like Asimov ("Foundation"), OS Card ("Enders game") or RC Wilson ("Spin").


I recently read one of Victor Hugo's shorter books, The Toilers of the Sea, and quite enjoyed it. I like Hugo's writing in general: has a rich feeling of time and place, with the style of the sentences he crafts sort of feeding into it. He's not exactly underrated in general, but I don't meet many people in my circles who read his novels.

I also recently read Kafka's The Trial, which I've long known about but never read, and it was good but not at all what I expected. For some reason I expected Kafka to be an intimidating, serious writer, based on how his name has come to be used metaphorically. But The Trial is a very easy read, engaging and plot-driven, moving along at a fast pace. You can read it in a few hours, and it feels like light reading, despite having some serious content.


Isaac Asimov's robot series (start with "I, Robot" and "The Caves of Steel") is good, as is his Foundation series. Ender's Game is also good; I've heard other people complain about the other novels in that universe (Speaker for the Dead and sequels, Ender's Shadow and sequels), but I liked them fine. Cryptonomicon is rich, fascinating, and entertaining. Dune is rich and pretty fascinating. Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Time Enough for Love" are somewhat scandalous, but I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Outside science fiction: P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster novels, as well as what of his other books I've read, are hilarious and brilliant; I would suggest "Right Ho, Jeeves" as a starting point.


For me, mostly Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Phillip K. Dick, Roger Zelazny, Isaac Asimov, William Gibson, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Georges R.R Martin, Tolkien, Raymond E Feist, David Gemell, Robin Hobb, Anne Mc Caffrey, Fritz Leiber, J.V. Jones, Moorcock, Jack Vance, Van Vogt, Robert Charles Wilson, Lucius Shepard, Ray Bradbury, Scott Lynch, Peter V Brett, E.E Knight... just for those coming to my mind right now and internationally known. I also read french writers in the same genre: Roland C Wagner, Claude Ecken, Lionel Davoust, Fabien Clavel, Pierre Pevel, Justine Niogret, Eric Wietzel, Alain Damasio, Ayerdhal, Sylvie Miller, Philippe Ward, Thomas Geha, Laurent Whale, Jeanne A Debats, Anne Fakhouri... And a lot more. I'm a bookworm so the list's always growing ^^'


East of Eden is my favorite book I've read in the last several years. Beautiful end to end and very moral. If you've read it it's totally worth reading Journal of a Novel: a collection of letters Steinbeck wrote to his editor every day as he was writing East of Eden. It's a fascinating window into the mind of a master deliberately creating a masterpiece.

Other favorites: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, In Our Time by Hemingway, The Magus by John Fowles, 100 years of solitude, Moby Dick (perhaps a precursor to all modern fantasy?) Stranger in a Strange Land, and Infinite Jest. I've also loved both of DFW's big essay collections: Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll never Do Again.


Reading The Second Sex right now. I need a bit of brush up on some history and philosophy.


I'm a huge fan of Daemon and Freedom(tm) by Daniel Suarez. I guess you can call it a 'technology thriller', with some amazing ideas and impressions of our society. His most recent book, Kill Decision, is along similar lines and also great.

I love reading actual sci-fi too, and was most impressed by the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. Can absolutely recommend those.

Note: I didn't come to these titles myself, they were recommended by Steve Gibson from the 'Security Now' podcast. I couldn't agree more with his taste.


How about David Foster Wallace? Also China Miéville and Haruki Murakami.


I went of a bit of a Murakami bender after reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. While it's still my favorite of his works, Kafka on the Shore is pretty fantastic as well.


I came across an excellent list of science fiction awhile ago;

http://4chanlit.wikia.com/wiki/Science_Fiction


My favorite is still Frank Herbert's Dune series.


The two books I have active right now:

    From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves, Emilio Segre
    A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean


My favorite fiction book is Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry. I am not a fan of the Star Wars books nor am I a hardcore Star Wars fan, but this book captures me every time.

Other favorites, not including those mentioned by others already are Jurassic Park and the Harry Potter series. I like to go back and read these often.

For fun, my favorite, far and away is Foxtrot by Bill Amend.


Dan Simmons Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion are two of the best novels I've read. I read a lot of scifi, and I think they have held up very well compared to some other works that came out in the 80s through the early 90s.

They present a lot of challenges that mankind may face in the future as our technology exceeds us, but they are also very entertaining.


I read history books but also, many others. One of the best classics Sci-fi I've read ever is The Riverworld saga by Josep Filip Farmer. I barealy guess another serie can match the awesome of this story, maybe as some hackers point out, The Foundation is another great series and will entertain you a lot.


I think I have read two pieces of fiction in my adult life. I'd love to read for recreation much more, but if I have time to read a fantasy or horror or science fiction novel, I have time to read something related to my field, instead.


anything by Charles Stross, the atrocity archive could be a good place to start: humor, computers and cosmic horrors, whats not to like ;)

Another would be halting state but time have properly overrun it.

He even have a interesting background as a programmer/tech writer/pharmacist, read it here: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2009/07/how_i_go...


I recently started Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. From what I understand, in the US the book is viewed as a must-read for students, but it's much less known here in Europe.


You are horribly misinformed. Opinions or merits of the book aside, Ayn Rand is viewed as a crackpot and is generally (I'm sure there are exceptions) not taken seriously in academia, and I have never heard of any public highschool that views Atlas Shrugged as critical reading.


We read "The Fountainhead," if that's anything. Doesn't mean the rest of what you said is wrong.


I definitely should have been more clear. I meant that in terms of formal philosophy, she isn't usually ranked up there with Plato, Nietzsche or Kant, and that as far as literature goes, I haven't seen too many highschools advocating Atlas Shrugged. Universities might (I'm not really sure), but even then, I'm not sure it's really regarded as a "classic."

I don't think everything she has to say is bad, wrong or unimportant, even if I think she was nutty, verbose and a poor writer, but I was pointing out that she isn't nearly as important, from my perspective, as the OP claimed.


I have never heard of any public highschool that views Atlas Shrugged as critical reading

It's (been) required reading at West Point, amongst other places in the US. High-school reading lists are probably poor indicators: Plato, Nietzche, and Kant would be Atypical if not unheard of (if that is your standard).

Atlas shrugged has other interesting reasons to read it, however. Its main theme is actually dealing with assholes at work. Academics are embarrased by it, because its filled with "non-collegial" behaviour. But that just means they don't get out much.

Economics as a field which assumes opportunistic and deceitful behaviour are non-events. Atlas Shrugged is a great reminder of the fallacy in that. A typical Economist would consider Rand a "Crackpot", for using opportunistic and deceitful behaviour as basis for an empirical philosophy. But consider that lawyers get paid to write contracts to mitigaet the very dangers that economists assume away. Your Lawyer will tell you...never trust an Economist...theyre all crackpots and live in Ivy towers. =D

As a side bar, have you actually read Nietzche? I think academics (and a few of his old landlords) would consider him more of a "crackpot" than Rand. Clearly Rand and Nietzsche have nothing in common? Perhaps other than its the lie that tells the truth.


Plato and Nietzsche are far from atypical. Being two of the West's most literary philosophers, they routinely turn up in high school. Excerpts from Plato's Repulic (e.g. The Allegory of the Cave) and any of Nietzsche's aphoristic works are especially common.

Academics are embarrased by it, because its filled with "non-collegial" behaviour. But that just means they don't get out much.

Where on earth are you getting this? Academics celebrate texts far less collegial than Rand's. Rand's work, as literature, is dismissed because, as literature, it isn't very good. Her work isn't taken seriously or engaged with philosophically for other reasons, but propriety isn't one of them. To invoke the ancient stereotype of the "stuffy academic" is ludicrous. Academics today are probably the most open-minded, least proprietous group around.

I think academics (and a few of his old landlords) would consider him more of a "crackpot" than Rand.

I can't speak to the attitudes of his old landlords, but no, modern academics do not consider him a crackpot. For political reasons he was in and out of favor around the times of WW1 and WW2 (due to the misappropriation of his work by various groups, most famously the Nazis), but he's never ceased to be hugely important to continental philosophy, and Walter Kauffmann set the record straight and rehabilitated his image for the English-speaking world decades ago.


As a historical point, Nietszche was considered "unemployable" by german Academia following Zara. and BGE printed on his own dime. He was widely (wrongly) viewed as tin foil hat (nihlist, etc) for 100 years. PG's great essay on the history of philosophy doesn't even mention him (http://www.paulgraham.com/philosophy.html). Nevertheless, look where he ends up...

In the humanities you can either avoid drawing any definite conclusions (e.g. conclude that an issue is a complex one), or draw conclusions so narrow that no one cares enough to disagree with you. The kind of philosophy I'm advocating won't be able to take either of these routes. At best you'll be able to achieve the essayist's standard of proof..."

Sound familiar? Slightly Nietzshean?

Likewise, Rand's heterodox views have made her about as popular as Larry Summers at a "women in STEM" mixer, but then she pre-dated by 50 years the 3 [economics] nobels that took Nietszchen epistimology seriously (1991, 2002, 2009).

People still confuse here work with being expositions of free-market economics. This of course is non-sensical. What is relevant and unique is that she takes seriously the key omitted behavioural assumptions of neo-liberal Economics. Which is a contr-indication of blind support for neo-liberal economics.[1]

Her work is most intersting in its analysis of the internal workings of firms, a point directly off the map of neo-classical economics (Coase: the nature of the firm 1932, nobel 1991), in particular the non-market (hierarchy) driven decisioning mechanics.

The nature of these dynamics (ie, expositions of opportunism and bounded rationality), are precisely the types of discussions dismissed by post-frege philosophy as 'crackpot', in the sense of not being formalistically relevant to Academic philosophy (viz: At best you'll be able to achieve the essayist's standard of proof).

But these topics are slightly more interesting than that.

And not exactly the work of a "crackpot".

_______

[1] Ironically, "L"iberal interventionist economic types have a greater problem with her critique of "conservative" economics. Her critique of the neo-classical assumptions also applies to its derivatives, including the variant of neo-classical commonly known as 'welfare' economics. This is the modern "L"iberal branch of economics. see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_economics


As a historical point...

All fine and good, but your claim was "academics...would consider him more of a 'crackpot' than Rand." That's what I replied to, because it's not true.

You asked the parent commenter "have you actually read Nietzche?" Well, I have, cover to cover, including the Nachlass. More importantly, I've read exhaustively in the tradition that descends from him. Nietzsche had an enormous influence on Heidegger, Gadamer, Deleuze, Foucault, Blanchot, Derrida, and just about every other important continental philosopher of the last century. And then there are all the critics, novelists, poets, painters, sculpters...

There's simply no point comparing Nietzsche's reputation to Rand's. No one credible has ever really considered him to be a "crackpot." Even analytic philosophers like Searle appreciate Nietzsche.

He was widely (wrongly) viewed as tin foil hat (nihlist, etc) for 100 years.

No, not widely, and not for 100 years. Nietzsche's impact was already being felt both philosophically and in the arts by the 1910s.

PG's great essay on the history of philosophy doesn't even mention him

A few things, here.

1) It's not an essay on the history of philosophy, though it does have a section titled "History," which limits itself to a cursory discussion of Aristotle's Metaphysics.

2) Much as I respect pg, I'm not sure why I should put any stock in the selection of thinkers in this essay or credit his views on philosophy. He was a philosophy major for "most" of college? Nifty, but like most humanities disciplines in modern universities, philosophy, at the undergraduate level, just gets you caught up with where you should've been when you finished high school, had high school actually done its job. Even from this short treatment, it's clear that there are huge gaps both in pg's knowledge and in his understanding of, for example, Wittgenstein and Aristotle. Which leads me to:

3) The essay is simply wrong in many of its assertions. For example:

"The proof of how useless some of their answers turned out to be is how little effect they have. No one after reading Aristotle's Metaphysics does anything differently as a result."

If you're interested in just how off base this is historically, here are a few things that might interest you:

[-] Any of James Joyce's novels, or any criticism exploring the philosophical undercurrents of his work, e.g. The Aesthetics of James Joyce by Jacques Aubert. Joyce had a Jesuit education. Aristotle's influence is immediate, palpable, and bears incredible fruit.

[-] A fair bit of Ezra Pound's poetry and criticism (ABC of Reading, Guide to Kulchur, The Spirit of Romance, various essay collections like Machine Art and Other Writings, and so on). Pound was influenced not only by the Metaphysics but by the Nicomachean Ethics and the Rhetoric.

[-] Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages, by A.J. Minnis. I mention this in a last-but-not-least way, as Minnis traces a clear path from Aristotle to how we read today.

Now, does the average person do anything differently as a result of reading Aristotle? Of course not, at least not as a direct result. The average person doesn't do anything differently as a result of much at all (that's what makes them average). But the people who set the terms of culture, the influencers? You bet your ass they do -- if not as a result of reading Aristotle, then as a result of reading some contemporary equivalent, e.g. Plato -> Baudrillard -> The Matrix -> Average Person.

Sound familiar? Slightly Nietzshean?

Not to me, no.

in the sense of not being formalistically relevant to Academic philosophy

For analytic philosophers maybe, but continental philosophers decoupled rigor from exactness long ago. Lack of exactness wouldn't stop them from reading Rand, if they thought there was value there.

But you don't need to defend Rand to me. I'm indifferent, not hostile. I only popped into the discussion to point out that Nietzsche's place in the philosophical canon is secure.


We had to read all three, Plato, Nietzche, and Kant, in high school. (I went to a Jesuit school, though).


Alright, this comment thread is going to Hell, but for the sake of formality:

It's (been) required reading at West Point, amongst other places in the US.

I didn't know that. Thanks. It must be more popular than I realized, but I still don't see where it's considered terribly crucial in general, as the original comment claimed. I shouldn't have made it sound like my personal claim was any indication of absolute reality. My mistake. A survey would probably lay this issue to rest, but this was really supposed to be a one-off comment.

Atlas shrugged has other interesting reasons to read it, however. Its main theme is actually dealing with assholes at work. Academics are embarrased by it, because its filled with "non-collegial" behaviour. But that just means they don't get out much. Economics as a field which assumes opportunistic and deceitful behaviour are non-events. Atlas Shrugged is a great reminder of the fallacy in that. A typical Economist would consider Rand a "Crackpot", for using opportunistic and deceitful behaviour as basis for an empirical philosophy. But consider that lawyers get paid to write contracts to mitigaet the very dangers that economists assume away. Your Lawyer will tell you...never trust an Economist...theyre all crackpots and live in Ivy towers. =D

Chill! I'm speaking on what my impression is of the popular opinion on Rand in education, not what I think of Rand myself.

Also, your statement that the main theme of Atlas Shrugged being about "dealing with assholes at work" is very interesting and I'm not sure how you came up with that.

As a side bar, have you actually read Nietzche? I think academics (and a few of his old landlords) would consider him more of a "crackpot" than Rand. Clearly Rand and Nietzsche have nothing in common? Perhaps other than its the lie that tells the truth.

I've read some of Nietzsche's stuff, and yes, Rand is very much an imitation of him (what does that prove and why are you asking me that rhetorically?). I'm still not sure I buy that Nietzsche is considered more of a "Crackpot" by academics than Rand is, having gone to a university in the US and having seen firsthand the curriculum in a philosophy class, but it's completely subjective, so you might be right.


Ayn Rand's Atlas and Fountainhead are literature in the same sense that Harriet Beacher Stowe's "uncle Tom's Cabin" is literature. These three pulp novels address important topics, but in shamefully oversimplified ways that almost defame the topics they present. Their authors both caught lightening in a bottle by accident.

West Point has no business assigning either book to any class presented to a future Army Officer. I mean it: None.

I would get rid of any instructor who required students to read either Atlas or Fountainhead. The heroes in both books behave immorally by any sane standard, in terms of what West Point Cadets are being taught in their other classes. Howard Roark commits a violent rape in Chapter Two -- later, he blows up a sky scraper. John Galt would simply be considered a terrorist today.


So you want them only to read what has been "approved"? At that rate they should stop reading Noam Chomsky because he may have writings not favorable to the US Military. The idea of education (even at a US Military Academy) is let students read a diverse group of authors in order to make well informed moral decisions once they get into the field. Saying a book has "dangerous" ideas is akin to a people wanting to burn books because they object to what is being written.


You replied to the wrong comment.


I don't think that one is really read in schools. We did read an Ayn Rand book in my high school (in Texas), but it was Anthem, a much shorter novella, with a more general theme of future-utopia-is-actuallly-dystopia, ending with a paean to individualism. It bears some similarities to a more recent book, The Giver, which is also popular as young-adult literature.

I haven't read her other books, but from a literary perspective, Anthem has the same problem that I gather her other works have, just in miniature: there is a core of an actual novel there and it's starting to build an interesting world and characters, but then at some point it degenerates into a pages-and-pages-long non-fiction essay in Ayn Rand's voice pasted into the book, with a pretty flimsy excuse for what these pages of text are doing in a novel (I think in Anthem it's the character thinking out loud or something).


One of the few titles on my list of books that I tell people not to read (http://neilbowers.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/book-review-atlas...)


A fun rebuttal to her work (I've read Atkas Shrigged twice and find her deeply flawed but still interesting in some ways) is Sewer Gas and Electric by Matt Ruff. It's very fun silly sci fi.


> From what I understand, in the US the book is viewed as a must-read for students

Probably among members of the political faction that identifies with the author's philosophy, but among people outside of that faction not so much. It's certainly not a consensus view in the US; its far from a must-read in any practical sense, though most moderately political aware people with a college education probably are aware of it, even if they haven't read it.


Last 3 books: Game of thrones (1, 2, 3) Currently reading: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (one of the comprehensive and popular works on the topic)


Vonnegut (Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse 5), Bukowski (Postman). Steinbeck (Tortilla flat). All their stuff is good, but those are my favorites :)


I'm surprised no one's mentioned Philip José Farmer and his Riverworld series. The last book is comparatively weak, but the rest are great.


Weird Life: The Search for Life That Is Very, Very Different from Our Own.

I am cheating with an audiobook though....spend a lot of time in a car=)


"Arguably Essays" by Christopher Hitchens

"Letters to a Young Contrarian" by the same.

and "Unpopular Essays" by Bertrand Russell.


The Crying of Lot 49 -- Thomas Pynchon


This is quite possibly the best book I have ever read.


I tell everyone I meet who is into books to read "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski.


Frederik Pohl's Gateway


Catch 22 One Hundred Years of Solitude The Infinite Jest Cryptonomicon


Catch 22 Subtext: One Hundred Years of Solitude The Infinite Jest Cryptonomicon :P


Kazuo Ishiguro is a favorite: Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go


reading stanley milgrams obedience to authority. Hoping to start a biography on oppenheimer soon. Don't know which biography to choose though


Harry Potter; Tales of Pirx the Pilot (Stanislaw Lem)


If you haven't read "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality", you're in for a treat: http://hpmor.com/


I have set my mind years ago to completely ignore Potter fan-fiction, regards of its quality.


You're missing out. I'd liked HPMOR much more then original story. Thought it's quite geeky which not everyone likes.


Like yourself I resisted reading HPMOR for years. Give in to your dark side, the book is both remarkably compelling and extremely self-aware.


Wool by Hugh Howey


H.P. Lovecraft :)


Huckleberry Finn


Reading The Book Thief at the moment.


A Song of Ice and Fire


Judas Unchained




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